Editorial — Living the Year of Mercy

Glenn Rutherford
Glenn Rutherford

The Year of Mercy has become, unfortunately, a year of violence.

In some cases, unspeakable violence, as illustrated by the senseless murder of two women religious in Mississippi who were doing nothing more than God’s work. Sister of Charity of Nazareth Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, of the School Sisters of St. Francis, worked to heal the sick. They were answering the call of Jesus; living the Gospel message.

Then there are the continuing atrocities in Syria, where the killing has become ubiquitous. In Chicago this year (so far), more than 480 people have been killed in shootings, the last one a teen-aged girl standing on a street corner when struck by crossfire between rival gangs.

Chicago officials say August was the city’s most violent month in two decades.

In Louisville we had five shootings within one 48 hour period recently. The number of people killed by gun violence in 2016 stands above 80.

The political campaigns in the United States have even taken to the rhetoric of violence, with calls from rally-goers to hang a candidate. In one case of extreme stupidity, a state senator even called for the use of a firing squad.

We’ve seen pushing and shoving and fisticuffs at political rallies. We’ve seen a rise in attention given to the hate-filled white nationalist and white people’s parties, with a seeming re-birth of Nazi symbols and Nazi ideals.

Violence in most cases is the hand-maiden of ignorance, and in the U.S., unfortunately, that ignorance seems to have spread far more rapidly and effectively than the Zika virus or any other pathogen known to man.

In many cases the ignorance is willful, born out of an unwillingness to read enough to consider the truth, an unwillingness to think enough to avoid the hate. And as a result, decades after the Civil War, after the signing of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, after the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, we remain a nation conflicted by race and financial inequality.

We have problems — decades old problems — that we still believe can be solved by yelling at each other. The yelling often leads to an escalation in violence, and eventually to the use of the nation’s guns. Millions of them, each far too easy to obtain.

So in the face of this senseless carnage, we must realize that it takes courage to go against the flow. It takes the courage of Pope Francis to call for dialogue in the face of demagoguery and vitriol.

It takes courage to live out the Year of Mercy, to live a life of forgiveness rather than one that plots revenge or revolution.

For even without the vitriol and hate-mongering of any election year, we have enough natural disasters and death to warrant helping one another. In Italy, the earth shook and hundreds died. Refugees are still drowning while fleeing war’s atrocity. Mothers are still working two, three or four jobs to try to make enough money to feed their families.

The church, always at its best in times of crisis, has rushed aid to Italy. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has called for a special collection to help the victims of monumental flooding in Louisiana. And the Knights of Columbus pledged Aug. 29 to send $50,000 to Italy to specifically help the children orphaned or left homeless by the quake.

In response to that gift, the pope said that the rapid outreach after the quake shows “how important solidarity is in overcoming such painful trials.”

The pope added that “service to one’s brothers and sisters becomes a testimony of love, which makes God’s love credible.”

The church is busy living out the tenets of the Year of Mercy. And even in the face of such violent times, the rest of us should, too.

Glenn Rutherford

Record Editor Emeritus

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